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Core Java Interview Questions and Answers

Ques. Difference between "java.lang.OutOfMemoryError: Java heap space" and "java.lang.OutOfMemoryError: PermGen space"
Ans. If you are familiar with different generations on heap and How garbage collection works in java and aware of new, old and permanent generation of heap space then you would have easily figured out this OutOfMemoryError in Java. Permanent generation of heap is used to store String pool and various Meta data required by JVM related to Class, method and other java primitives. Since in most of JVM default size of Perm Space is around "64MB" you can easily ran out of memory if you have too many classes or huge number of Strings in your project. Important point to remember is that it doesn't depends on Xmx value so no matter how big your total heap size you can ran OutOfMemory in perm space. Good think is you can specify size of permanent generation using JVM options "-XX:PermSize" and "-XX:MaxPermSize" based on your project need.

One small thing to remember is that "=" is used to separate parameter and value while specifying size of perm space in heap while "=" is not required while setting maximum heap size in java, as shown in below example.

export JVM_ARGS="-Xmx1024m -XX:MaxPermSize=256m"


Another reason of "java.lang.OutOfMemoryError: PermGen" is memory leak through Classloaders and its very often surfaced in WebServer and application server like tomcat, webshere, glassfish or weblogic. In Application server different classloaders are used to load different web application so that you can deploy and undeploy one application without affecting other application on same server, but while undeploying if container some how keeps reference of any class loaded by application class loader than that class and all other related class will not be garbage collected and can quickly fill the PermGen space if you deploy and undeploy your application many times. "java.lang.OutOfMemoryError: PermGen has been observed many times in tomcat in our last project but solution of this problem are really tricky because first you need to know which class is causing memory leak and then you need to fix that. Another reason of OutOfMemoryError in PermGen space is if any thread started by application doesn't exit when you undeploy your application.

These are just some example of infamous classloader leaks, anybody who is writing code for loading and unloading classes have to be very careful to avoid this. You can also use visualgc for monitoring PermGen space, this tool will show graph of PermGen space and you can see how and when Permanent space getting increased. I suggest using this tool before reaching to any conclusion.

Another rather unknown but interesting cause of "java.lang.OutOfMemoryError: PermGen" we found is introduction of JVM options "-Xnoclassgc". This option sometime used to avoid loading and unloading of classes when there is no further live references of it just to avoid performance hit due to frequent loading and unloading, but using this option is J2EE environment can be very dangerous because many framework e.g. Struts, spring etc uses reflection to create classes and with frequent deployment and undeployment you can easily ran out of space in PermGen if earlier references was not cleaned up. This instance also points out that some time bad JVM arguments or configuration can cause OutOfMemoryError in Java.
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